Last night I had a spirited discussion on twitter about trials. The statement was made “In the present, we call them trials; in the future we will call them tender mercies of The Lord.” . I took issue with the statement because trials are still trials even if they serve a noble purpose in the end. To me calling them tender mercies from the Lord is like giving people permission to cause pain because in the end the Lord uses it to do good. As my old seminary teacher used to say
‘Judas is not off the hook’.
I actually heard someone argue once that rape victims should be grateful for their experience because it made them strong and turn to the Lord. The person last night was not inferring this but isn’t it a necessary stretch of the argument that if trials are truly blessings from the Lord than when we are victimized (the worst kind of trial) it is secretly a blessing and we should be grateful for it.
No! Now, we shouldn’t be bitter and allow it to control our life but call evil, evil, call trials, trials and be grateful for the Lord helping you through the evil and the trials. Just because you are able to clean dirty clothes does not mean the dirt didn’t exist!
This goes to the question of forgiving and forgetting- a question of much debate in the church, can you really forget? Some claim that through the atonement you can forget sins and move on. I’d say you can forget the pain but not the event itself. We are humans and I don’t see how you can just erase such trauma from your mind and I have about as intimate and close a relationship with Jesus Christ of anyone I know. So far no forgetting but the pain is lessened.
In fact, I have found that those moments of pain are sometimes the most clear, the most distinct of my life. I’ve always found it ironic that the memories of being bullied and harassed as a child are clear as day in my mind but the happy times like Christmases and family vacations are a blur. Why is that? Why do we remember the tough times so clearly and not the good? I’m not sure.
In any case, I have not been able to forget my pain; nor, do I necessarily want to. I learned a lot of hard lessons through God’s walking me through the pain. I grew close to Him as He helped me see the higher purpose and that I was loved by Him. Does that mean he sent down the bullies so that I would be close to Him? Of course not! Judas is not off the hook and neither are the bullies or rapists or whatever hurts us in this life!
Perhaps we cannot forgive and forget because time does not stand still and we can forever live with effects of even repented sin.
The reason I wanted to title this post Mormonism and Pain is I thought I might explain why some things seem to be particularly painful to Mormons compared to other Christians. You see, we believe in an eternal growth cycle. We believe the things we do here on this earth have eternal consequences and that a mistake now while always redeemable still can have eternal results.
For example, I met a family on my mission who years before decided that paying tithing was too hard and fallen away from the church. Eventually they came back to full fellowship and restored their temple covenants, which was great, but it could not take away years of inactivity when they were raising their children.
In addition, the family found no suitable replacement for teaching their children right and wrong (as many who leave Mormonism are able to do quite successfully) so they were without much of a moral compass and certainly far away from the teachings of the church. Zoom ahead to the present and the children are way off track with prison sentences and illegitimate pregnancies as examples. So, yes they came back to Jesus and His grace, which is fabulous but their eternal family could be forever damaged because of choices they had already made. They cannot after all raise their children over again. It is that eternal gravity that can make us sad.
Another example can be seen in marriage. While divorce is never a pleasant experience for anyone of any faith or persuasion, think of the added pressure for Mormons where an eternal family is being dissolved. Even a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend can be all the more devastating because for at least a moment the individuals involved could see them as part of an eternal union. When things don’t work out its brutal because of the potential. Of course, when they do the eternal covenants make things all the more sweet and happy but there is that darker, more morose flip side to our beliefs.
So, when you scratch your head and wonder ‘Why are they making such a big deal over this?’ Remember that for Mormons we are seeing things through a longer and larger telescope than you. To us, we can see eternity and have it as our goal. There is nothing more important to a Mormon than eternal families but that is not a guarantee. Human action does affect whether we will be with our loved one’s again. The song after all says ‘families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan’. Pain and trials are an essential part of getting there but still more weighty than just a ‘hard time that will pass by’ especially when they are the result of sins, whether our own or sins of others that can, even if repented and forgiven, have eternal ramifications.
We also believe in covenants made on earth have massive importance. In fact, they can only be made here or via proxy. That’s how important our behavior and life on earth is to Mormon theology. Mortality really matters, and the behaviors of human beings can have consequences for forever which can make us feel an eternal sadness (and joy!), and the sadness is sometimes shared even by God Himself:
Moses 7: 28-33 (this doesn’t sound like a God who is glad for trials/sadness of his people)
28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the a of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst a, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of a like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy b; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
31 And thou hast taken a to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, b, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst c?
32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own a, and I gave unto them their b, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his c;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should a one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they b their own blood;
btw- I’m not necessarily saying this pain is right or wrong, it just is, and so if you puzzle at why certain things are so painful for your Mormon friends this is the lens that many I know are looking through. Just thought that might give a little empathy when you see the tears! Thanks